Chief executive of Australian car safety rating organisation ANCAP James Goodwin says that the angular design and steel construction of the new Cybertruck electric ute from Tesla may pose safety risks to other road users such as pedestrians.
The Cybertruck’s polarising design and specifications, which include using 30x cold-rolled stainless steel that is also used for Starships rockets made by Musk’s other company SpaceX, has already attracted more than 200,000 pre-orders within three days of its unveil.
It is the result of Tesla CEO and co-founder Elon Musk’s desire to do something completely new in design in the field of utility truck (known colloquially as pickup in the US and the ute in Australia).
In addition to the un-dentable steel exoskeleton, Tesla has also used innovative materials such as armoured glass in an effort to deliver maximum safety to future owners of the Cybertruck.
(Although this failed the steel ball test during its launch, Musk has since said this was due to lead designer Franz von Holzhausen first sledge hammering the door panel causing it to “cracked base of glass” during the launch).
But according to Goodwin, Tesla may have prioritised concern over safety of its occupants to the detriment of other road users.
Speaking with news.com.au, Goodwin said that: “Thinking about other road users there, it’s got a fairly harsh front and not a whole lot of areas that would provide some give if there was a strike with a pedestrian.”
“We do both head form and leg form impacts … the (frontal) rake would look like it’s not very forgiving in terms of legs.”
Tesla has received 5-star safety ratings for its best-selling Model 3 electric sedan from the US-based National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), the European NCAP as well as Australia’s ANCAP.
However, in all three safety ratings, Tesla earned lower scores for vulnerable user protection compared to other measures such as safety assist and adult/child occupant protection.
“We’ve got a concern that Tesla is very interested in the occupants of the vehicle, but it can’t ignore the other road users as well,” Goodwin was quoted as saying.
“ANCAP’s protocols are well known and what we would expect is that a vehicle should be able to protect the occupants of the vehicle as well as those other road users … including pedestrians and cyclists.”
Whether the Cybertruck will make it to market in its current form is already being questioned – the model shown during the launch apparently bereft of standard features like rear vision mirrors and window wipers (a recent patent submitted by Tesla does suggest it may be looking to more unconventional ways of cleaning glass however).
According to Goodwin, it may not be allowed for sale in its current form and that drastic changes may need to be made in order for it to be considered road legal – including making it safer for occupants.
Because the cold-rolled steel is undentable it does not allow for crumple zones that reduce the impact of the force of an accident for occupants.
“We would expect that a vehicle should be able to absorb some [crash] energy because if it doesn’t absorb some energy…it will be the people inside the vehicle who bear the brunt,” he was quoted as saying.
Could this mean Tesla will have to drop the use of its Starship cold-rolled steel when the Cybertruck goes into production?
We have reached out to Tesla for comment. The Driven also reached out to Goodwin for further comment, but calls have not been returned.
Bridie Schmidt is associate editor for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.